McALLEN, RGV – Experts differ on just how much of the Rio Grande Valley’s economy is based on illegal drug money, in story for NPR News about corruption in the region.
Al Alvarez, who believes he has indicted more politicians than any attorney in the Valley, tells NPR’s John Burnett that “drugs fuel 20 percent of the economy here in the Valley.” Speaking about the “underground economy,” Alvarez says “border cities are complex. The Valley is complex.”
Chad Richardson, emeritus sociologist at the University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg, tells Burnett that he estimates five to ten percent of the Valley economy is rooted in illegal activity, primarily drugs.
Richardson tells Burnett that “there is a lot of dirty money in the Rio Grande Valley.” Richardson co-wrote a book about the Valley’s underground economy. Burnett said Richardson’s book, The Informal and Underground Economy of the South Texas Border, co-written with Michael J. Pisani, “did not endear him to the chambers of commerce.”
Burnett’s story, which aired Monday on NPR’s Morning Edition, is called Corruption on the Border: Dismantling Misconduct in the Rio Grande Valley. It is the first of a three-part series. In Part One, Burnett interviews Rock Stone, who heads the FBI’s new Rio Grande Valley Public Corruption Task Force in McAllen.
“We’re here to plant the flag and show that it all ends now,” Stone tells Burnett. “I don’t want to hear anymore, ‘It’s always been that way.’ Well, it’s not going to be that way anymore on my watch. I plan to be an instrument of change.”
Also interviewed for the story are Jonathan Treviño, the former leader of the infamous Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office/Mission Police Department Panama Unit, Mary Helen Flores, founder of Citizens Against Voter Abuse, retired college instructor Ruth Wagner, social worker Carlos Gomez, and Brownsville attorney Carlos Cisneros.
Click here to read and listen to Corruption on the Border: Dismantling Misconduct in the Rio Grande Valley.
Click here to learn more about Chad Richardson’s book, The Informal and Underground Economy of the South Texas Border.
Editor’s Note: The NPR News series ‘Corruption in the Rio Grande Valley’ is airing in the Valley on RGV Public Radio 88 FM, the Rio Grande Guardian’s news media partner.